Hold Your Horses

In what seems to be turning into a recurring theme, I’m back again to tame some of our wildest records here in the Still Picture Branch…this time, famed warhorse, Sergeant Reckless!

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Camp Pendleton, CA….Sergeant Reckless, a horse of Korean fame, stands at attention for the inspection of the public, during the Carlsbad Spring holiday celebration. Handling Reckless is Pvt. Walter R. Wilson. National Archives Local Identifier: 127-N-A351974

As the de facto animal expert here in Stills, I’ve developed quite the nose for sniffing out hidden gems depicting our furry friends.  Recently, a couple of requests landed on my desk for images of the Marine warhorse “Sergeant Reckless,” which piqued my curiosity.

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Reckless of a recoilless rifle company of the 5th Marines in Korea, poses with her ammunition pack and one of the 75mm guns she served so well under fire. National Archives Local Identifier: 127-N-A171729

Sergeant Reckless was a decorated warhorse who served during the Korean War as a pack horse for the Recoilless Rifle Platoon in the 5th Marine Regiment’s Anti-Tank Company.  She played an integral part in the Battle of Outpost Vegas in 1953, braving the chaos of battle to make repeated supply trips, mostly alone, under enemy fire.

To find Sergeant Reckless, I started by searching through Series 127-GW: Photographs of World War II and Post World War II Marine Corps Activities, ca. 1939 – ca. 1958 for anything to do with ‘animals.’  While I was able to locate a subject heading for ‘animals,’ the images within were too generic.  Not knowing much about the subject at the time, I decided to see if there was a chance Sgt. Reckless was listed in the Marine Corps Personality Index.  It turns out the Marines have a particular fondness for their beastly brothers and sisters in arms, filing some of them by name, within the Series 127-PX: Indexes to Photographs of Marine Corps and Noted Civilian Personalities, 1927 – 1981, alongside their fellow Marines.  This system held true for Sergeant Reckless, as photographs of the Sarge are filed in the ‘R’ section of the index.

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Lieutenant Colonel Richard Rothwell reads citation from the Commandant of the Marine Corps, elevating Sergeant Reckless to Staff Sergeant and elevating her colt Private Fearless to Private First Class. National Archives Local Identifier: 127-N-A365246

Within 127-PX, I found a treasure trove of images depicting Sergeant Reckless, ranging from ceremonial shots with her foal, Private Fearless, to shots of her with her trainer.  It became clear from the amount of images of Sergeant Reckless that she meant a whole lot to her fellow Marines, thus leading me to create a finding aid based on the records I was able to locate, for whatever colt following may be out there.

One of a series of pictures of horse “Reckless”. National Archives Local Identifier: 127-N-A171732

Those looking for more images of Sergeant Reckless, or other military animals, are welcome to visit us in the Still Picture Branch at our facility in College Park, Maryland, or submit a request through email at Stillpix@nara.gov.

3 thoughts on “Hold Your Horses

  1. The U.S. Army, and the U.S. Marine Corps once owned millions of horses, well into the 20th century. Did they all receive names? How many horses remain in their stables today? Probably very few, if any, due to the development of motor transport vehicles.

  2. There are five monuments standing now of Sgt Reckless – one at the National Museum of the Marine Corps in Quantico, VA; Maine Corps Base Camp Pendleton in Oceanside, CA where she lived out her days and is buried; Kentucky Horse Park in Lexington, KY, the National Cowgirl Museum and Hall of Fame in Ft. Worth, TX, and a horse farm in Barrington Hills, IL that works with veterans with PTSD and horses. You can also find these pictures and over 125 more in my book, “Sgt Reckless: America’s War Horse” – her complete biography! Go to http://www.sgtreckless.com to learn more!!!

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